A Month-By-Month Guide to the Best Island Vacations
January – Palau
Why to go: It’s not called “the underwater Serengeti” for nothing. With world-class dive sites, this 500-island archipelago in Micronesia is a lure for divers around the world, and winter is its perfect season (summers are rainy). Above the surface, these pristine limestone and volcanic islands are blanketed in emerald forest.
February – Galapagos Islands
Why to go: If it’s on your bucket list, think about going in February. This isolated group of volcanic islands off Ecuador’s shores is one of the few places on Earth where human footprints are kept to a minimum, especially in this month, when the crowds of peak season are gone.
Where to stay: Get close to the action at Pikaia Lodge, a carbon-neutral five-star property on The Galapagos’s Santa Cruz Island with its own giant tortoise reserve and a private yacht for water excursions. +593 4371-1670 or pikaialodgegalapagos.com.
March - Palawan
Why to go: This one of the Philippines’ more than 7,000 islands packs in beautiful seascapes and a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventure. It’s also home to one of the new seven wonders of the world—the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River—a five-mile-long underground river that runs through an impressive cave system, where visitors can kayak to view the limestone and karst landscape. Avoid both the rainy and hot seasons by visiting in March.
Where to stay: El Nido Resorts Lagen Island resort sits on a tiny island just off Palawan, between a shallow lagoon and a large, serene forest—with equal opportunity to explore both, as well as Palawan itself. +63 (2) 813 0000 or elnidoresorts.com.
April – Kauai
Why to go: While every month of the year is beautiful in Hawaii, airfare and hotel rates drop off in April, making this a perfect spring getaway. The diverse landscapes of Kauai include emerald rainforest, rugged cliffs, sharp mountain spires, calm rivers, cascading waterfalls, 50 miles of beaches and Waimea Canyon (known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”)—and you have to share them with far fewer crowds than there are on Oahu and Maui.
May – Corsica
Why to go: Jagged mountains, dense forests, Roman ruins, and crescent beaches all illustrate Corsica’s modern-day nickname: L’Île du Beauté (the Isle of Beauty). Ample sunshine, little rain, and mild temperatures make May an ideal time to enjoy the island’s great outdoors. Although officially part of France (it’s due south of the mainland), this island feels more like Italy in nearly everything from cuisine to character.
Where to stay: Enjoy the views across the Mediterranean Sea to Sardinia from the heart of the southern city of Bonifaco at the boutique Hôtel Genovese. You can choose between the hotel rooms perched on the hillside, or suites on the waterfront. +33-495-731-234 or hotel-genovese.com.
June – Sea Island, Georgia
Why to go: This resort island south of Savannah is home to five miles of private coastline and three luxury resorts, and June’s warm-but-not-wet weather makes Sea Island an ideal family escape right after school’s out. With golf, tennis, boating, and kayaking on offer, there’s plenty to keep everyone playing, no matter what their age.
Where to stay: The Sea Island Beach Club is just steps from the beach, and all 22 residences feature Spanish Mediterranean design and expansive ocean views. Guests also have access to three swimming pools, water sports, a restaurant and movie theater offering complimentary, family-friendly films. 855-714-9201 or seaisland.com.
July – Vancouver Island
Why to go: The sunny and warm days of summer are the best time to take advantage of the wealth of nature-based activities on this large and rugged island just off the west coast of British Columbia. Try snorkeling with salmon (yes) on Campbell River, take surfing lessons and lounge in coastal hot springs in Tofino, and explore the formal gardens of Victoria, the island’s capital city.
August – Orkney Islands
Why to go: These green-topped islands ringed with red sandstone cliffs off the northeast coast of Scotland are steeped in Viking history. Famed for ancient monuments, stone circles and tombs, most of the 70 islands are uninhabited—but the largest island, oddly called the Mainland, is so rich in monuments that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skip the crowds of early summer and go in August, before winter rain and gales begin.
Where to stay: A small country-house hotel, The Lynnfield Hotel has views of Orkney’s capital, Kirkwall, the bay, and the islands beyond. It’s also close to the Highland Park distillery, which offers tours for whisky amateurs and connoisseurs alike. +44 (0) 1856 872505 or lynnfield.co.uk.
September – Maldives
Why to go: The world’s lowest-lying nation has no land more than six feet above sea level, and everything is all about the water—from hotels built directly over the sparkling Indian Ocean to the coral reefs rich with Crayola-colored life. You’ll have the best spots nearly all to yourself when you skip the winter high season.
Where to stay: Eco-friendly private villas slung low across the turquoise water are the appeal of newly opened Club Med Finolhu Villas. Not your old-school Club Med, this is part of the chain’s rebranding and offers luxury accommodations with green details like a desalination system and 67,000 square feet of solar panels. 888-932-2582 or clubmed.us.
October – Fiji
Why to go: With lush flora, dazzling sands, intensely colored reefs and waters that challenge you to name all those shades of blue—the natural beauty of this archipelago of more than 300 islands seems like a fantasy. October’s shoulder season with dry and sunny weather smack between two peak seasons ensures you don’t have to share the loot with everyone.
Where to stay: Claim the real “Blue Lagoon” for yourself on Turtle Island, an all-inclusive private island resort for only 14 couples at a time, and where the films were made. 800-255-4347 or turtlefiji.com.
November – Saint Lucia
Why to go: Caribbean insiders know that November on Saint Lucia is a sweet spot between hurricane season and winter crowds. The island’s abundant natural attractions range from hot springs to rainforests to the dramatic Piton mountain region. Luxury resorts and innovative Caribbean cuisine please visitors seeking indulgence, while those in search of adventure can coat themselves in mud at Sulphur Springs Park or climb 2,619-foot Gros Piton.
Where to stay: Each room at Ladera Resort has a plunge pool and three walls, leaving the fourth open to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Caribbean Sea and Piton mountains. 866-290-0978 or ladera.com.
December – Fernando de Noronha
Why to go: Perhaps one of the most stunning places in Brazil, the largest of 21 islands in an archipelago of the same name has spectacular tropical landscapes, crystalline water and rich marine life. December marks the end of the dry period and is popular for VIP New Year’s Eve parties on the main island, but a limited number of visitor permits are issued year-round to preserve the island’s natural integrity—so it’s never too crowded.
Where to stay: Wake up to a 360-degree view of the Sueste Bay every single morning at Pousada Maravilha, a luxe boutique hotel with bungalows and apartments. +55-81-4062-8687 or www.pousadamaravilha.com.br.